The greatest actor in Indian cinema ran an army canteen before he found his way to stardom. For Yusuf Khan, better known as Dilip Kumar, his first love was probably food. “One thing that excited his imagination was food. My wife and bhabhis enjoyed discussing different cuisines and recipes with him,” writes Faisal Farooqui in a new book on the legendary actor.

In the book, Dilip Kumar: In the Shadow of a Legend, the author paints an intimate portrait of the actor, throwing light on some little-known anecdotes from his illustrious life. The book brings to us the real Dilip Kumar, away from the large screen that made him such an endearing figure for his fans. Dilip Kumar was much more than the actor that we have revered all these years.

Love for good food ran in his family, reveals Farooqui. “The two years (1941 to 1943) Yusuf Khan spent in Pune running the army canteen made him fall in love with the kitchen. One of his greatest recipes was the 'Dilip Kumar omelette’. It was his own creation and he never ate an omelette unless it was prepared his way.”

Farooqui narrates Dilip Kumar’s avid love for food when he recalls a dinner he had to organise for the actor and his friend. The menu read: "Paya soup, seekh kebabs, UP-style biryani with a lot of spices but less salt, some raita and onion. Some korma, bhuna hua keema (roasted minced meat) and bheja (goat’s brain), raan (roasted goat’s leg), rotis.” With this menu, Farooqui brings out the foodie in Dilip Kumar.

The book is a tribute to Dilip Kumar the man more than Dilip Kumar the actor. “Dilip Sahab was a devout Muslim who respected all religions. Farooqui writes, “Being a voracious reader, he had read several holy books and even memorised the Qur'an. He had appointed a religious scholar as the Imam to lead the prayers at his house.”

A darling of the media all his career, Dilip Kumar took to social media and opened a Twitter account in 2011. “He posted his first tweet on his 89th birthday. Newspapers across the country celebrated Dilip Kumar’s arrival on Twitter.” Farooqui also writes how Dilip Kumar was proficient in nine languages, thanks to Twitter when he replied to a question.

“In Peshawar, we spoke Hindko at home. I had friends and neighbours from whom I picked up Pashto. I grew up speaking Farsi with my grandparents. Of course, we all grew up learning Urdu, spoken English.” Farooqui adds Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi to make Dilip Kumar a lovable linguaphile.

Dilip Kumar had revealed some personal likes and dislikes in his autobiography, Dilip Kumar, The Substance And The Shadow, released in 2014. But this is a different take on his life, narrated by a person close to him, more a family member. His autobiography dealt a lot with the period before he became a film star while this book is based on the author’s personal interactions with Dilip Kumar over a long period of time.

There is an anecdote from his youth when he witnessed firing by the British troops. He found refuge in a room and saw the “horror unfold.” The protest was quelled mercilessly and the incident left an indelible mark on Dilip Kumar’s mind. It changed him forever, claims Farooqui. “Sahab told me how he could see the bullets tearing through the flesh. It was his first encounter with death. The incident haunted him for years,” writes Farooqui.

Farooqui highlights the day that gave birth to Dilip Kumar the actor. From looking at a chance to start a pillow manufacturing business, he ran into an old friend at the Churchgate Station. The friend took him to a studio, the Bombay Talkies, at Malad.

Having hardly watched a movie, Dilip Kumar did not really fancy himself as working in the film industry and to one day rise to become the greatest Indian actor. His friend, Dr Masani, set up a meeting with the studio’s owner, Devika Rani. He landed his first movie, Jwar Bhata, and the rest is history.

The book celebrates Dilip Kumar’s amazing versatility as an actor. The alcoholic Devdas, the lover who always seems to lose his lady, the Salim who defies Akbar, the heartwarming character from Ram aur Shyam, the dacoit from Ganga Jamuna, Dilip Kumar kept the audience in a trance. He was a rare actor who could carry the movie on his shoulders. He was a natural actor, who played every role so convincingly. He actually lived the role.

Farooqui, who is the founder and CEO of, one of India's leading review and rating platforms, restricts himself to describing the Dilip Kumar he knew off the screen. It is a perfect gift to fans of Dilip Sahab, as he fondly refers to the grand actor.

Check the book on Amazon

In the Shadow of a Legend: Dilip Kumar by Faisal Farooqui
Published: Om Books International
Pages: 208
Price: ₹599

Vijay Lokapally is an independent sports journalist and author. His latest book was The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma story